Who’da Thunk It?

My students assigned themselves homework today. Over a four-day break.

Although I certainly assign my fair share of it, I have mixed emotions about homework. On the one hand, I believe that kids spend far too much of their childhoods indoors, toiling away on stuff that sometimes has dubious long-term value. On the other hand, I also have a hard time imagining what we would get done in class if students didn’t come in prepared for discussion. (Most nights, “homework” for my classes involves reading–ideally a couple of thought-provoking primary sources or perhaps an essay or book chapter by a professional historian.)

Anyway, when we return from Fall Break, my classes will embark on their first adventure (also my first adventure) in project-based learning. More on that later, perhaps. Today, though, we spend the last half-hour of class brainstorming (in a very rough way) “design thinking” and the issues associated with working as part of a team. Then they spent a few minutes in their groups, getting their ideas organized so that they could hit the ground running when they return next week.

When I checked in with both groups at the end of the period, I learned that they had already–and without prompting from me–assigned themselves the task of individually researching immigration issues over the break and reporting back to the group next week.

Is this how PBL works? I hope so. I could get used to this.


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